Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
They Said It:
It is well said, in every sense, that a man’s religion is the chief fact with regard to him. A man’s, or a nation of men’s.
By religion I do not mean here the church-creed which he professes, the articles of faith which he will sign and, in words or otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many cases not this at all. We see men of all kinds of professed creeds attain to almost all degrees of worth or worthlessness under each or any of them. This is not what I call religion, this profession and assertion; which is often only a profession and assertion from the outworks of the man, from the mere argumentative region of him, if even so deep as that.
But the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself, much less to others); the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest. That is his religion; or, it may be, his mere skepticism and no-religion: the manner it is in which he feels himself to be spiritually related to the Unseen World or No-World; and I say, if you tell me what that is, you tell me to a very great extent what the man is, what the kind of things he will do is.
Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in Society, 1840.
HILLARY’S CORRUPTION. WHO DIDN’T KNOW?
Over the last couple of weeks, we have all learned a great deal more about the Clinton Foundation than we probably ever cared to know. It turns out – to the shock of no one – that Bill and Hillary used their foundation as their personal slush fund and underwrote the entire endeavor by selling access to the State Department while Hillary was Secretary there. Emails released by the Justice Department and by the dogged and ever-vigilant folks over at Judicial Watch have left little doubt about the Foundation’s ultimate purpose. It exists to make money. And while some of that money was put to charitable ends, a rather large percentage of it was used to pay lavish sums to Foundation’s employees, including, naturally, daughter Chelsea.
It was simple, really: donors gave big bucks to the Foundation; the Foundation detailed this “generosity” to State; and then Hillary or her surrogates sat down to meet with the donors and to hear their pleas. As the Associated Press reported last week, more than half of the private individuals and entities with whom Hillary met in her official capacity as the Secretary of State were also big-dollar donors to the Clinton Foundation.
To make matters worse, we now know that this arrangement was the motivation behind the construction of the clandestine email server that patently compromised national security. The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel put it this way last week:
This is the week that we finally learned why Mrs. Clinton used a private communications setup, and what it hid. This is the week, in short, that we found out that the infamous server was designed to hide that Mrs. Clinton for three years served as the U.S. Secretary of the Clinton Foundation.
In March this column argued that while Mrs. Clinton’s mishandling of classified information was important, it missed the bigger point. The Democratic nominee obviously didn’t set up her server with the express purpose of exposing national secrets — that was incidental. She set up the server to keep secret the details of the Clintons’ private life — a life built around an elaborate and sweeping money-raising and self-promoting entity known as the Clinton Foundation. . .
Mostly, we learned this week that Mrs. Clinton’s foundation issue goes far beyond the “appearance” of a conflict of interest. This is straight-up pay to play. When Mr. Band sends an email demanding a Hillary meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain and notes that he’s a “good friend of ours,” what Mr. Band means is that the crown prince had contributed millions to a Clinton Global Initiative scholarship program, and therefore has bought face time. It doesn’t get more clear-cut, folks. . .
What we discovered this week is that one of the nation’s top officials created a private server that housed proof that she continued a secret, ongoing entwinement with her family foundation — despite ethics agreements — and that she destroyed public records.
It almost goes without saying that conservative commentators responded quickly and stridently, insisting that these revelations were all anyone could ever need to prove that Hillary Clinton is, was, and ever shall be unfit to be the President of the United States. Indeed, Strassel concluded her column, writing that “If that alone doesn’t disqualify her for the presidency, it’s hard to know what would.” Well . . . she’s right. But maybe not necessarily in the way she thinks she is.
Let us explain.
Elsewhere in the conservative commentariat, various and sundry observer were insisting not just that Hillary’s guilt was undeniable but that it was unprecedented as well and therefore exceptionally dangerous. Now that we know for sure what she did and who she is, to elect her would be a national catastrophe of unparalleled proportion. PJMedia’s Roger Simon probably put it best, fuming about the Clinton Foundation revelations and their implications as follows:
The truth about the Clinton Foundation is already clear. Whatever its original intentions, this supposed charity became a medium to leverage Hillary Clinton’s position as secretary of State for personal enrichment and global control by the Clintons and their allies. . .
To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been done in the history of the United States government. . .
This means, quite simply, that the United States of America has abandoned the rule of law. Maybe we did a while ago. In any case, we are now a banana republic — a rich and powerful one, at least temporarily, but still a banana republic.
The election of Hillary Clinton — our own Evita — will make the situation yet more grave. . . .
“A republic, if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin reportedly said when emerging from the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Yes, it may be apocryphal, but so are many important statements that are true in concept.
2016 is about to mark the year we lost that republic. It could well be an historical date like 1066, 1215 and 1776. Think about that one.
Now, we have no intention whatsoever to pick on Mr. Simon or Ms. Strassel, both of whom have done yeoman’s work in exposing the Clinton Foundation scandal and both of whom are on the right side of this issue. Still, we can’t help but wonder if they might be suffering from a bit of long-term memory loss. Simon writes that “nothing like this has ever been done in the history of the United States government,” and that 2016 may “mark the year we lost that republic.” Nonsense, we say. Something like this HAS, in fact, been done before. And “we” lost the republic many years ago.
Old-timers among you may recall that a long, long time ago, at a big (now defunct) brokerage house far, far away, we used to send out weekly updates on the Clinton scandals via fax. Others of you may wonder what a “fax” is, but that’s not important right now. Rather, what’s important is that we remember ALL of the Clinton scandals, because we used to think that ALL of them mattered and we used to try to make the case to you that ALL of them mattered. And while the rest of the world spent the latter half of Bill’s priapic presidency fixated on the young intern with the blue dress, we knew that the real scandal of his tenure in office was the way in which he sold access to himself, to other important people, and even to somebody called Al Gore. Bill, you see, was more than happy to mingle with those who were generous enough to make big donations – to his reelection effort, to his library, to Hillary’s Senate campaign, to the DNC, and so on.
It all started with coffee, as the Los Angeles Times reported here:
The Democratic National Committee collected $27 million from guests who attended White House coffee klatches with President Clinton over the last two years, newly available records show. Many of those who were invited to the White House for private chats with Clinton and senior administration officials made substantial contributions to the Democratic Party within days of the events.
The records raise new questions about whether the Democratic Party used the White House and personal audiences with the president as part of a formal fund-raising program. The administration and party officials have insisted that the sessions were appropriate and that guests were invited to the White House to share their views with the president, not for the purpose of soliciting campaign funds.
The pattern of donations suggests, however, that the 103 meetings between January 1995 and August 1996 were part of a system that cultivated major supporters who, in many cases, gave large contributions before or after attending the White House events.
From there, it moved to spending the night – not with Bill, mind you, but in the Lincoln Bedroom, as CNN noted here:
President Bill Clinton’s guests in the Lincoln Bedroom gave a total of at least $5.4 million to the Democratic National Committee during 1995 and 1996, according to a study for CNN by the Campaign Study Group.
Among the biggest donors were investor Dirk Ziff, who gave $411,000; movie producer Steven Spielberg, $336,000; retired businessman William Rollnick, $235,000; and Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman, $225,000.
The CNN study found 24 overnight White House guests who gave $100,000 or more to the DNC. CNN’s $5.4 million figure does not include money given to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, or any state party committees.
Before long, anyone and anything in the White House was for sale. Need a pardon for tax fraud and oil-for-food fraud? Just get your ex-wife to donate generously to Hillary’s Senate campaign and to the Clinton library fund. Want to talk to the President about taking it easy on China’s human rights violations or about commercial interests you may have in Vietnam or even about American policy regarding East Timor? Just launder millions of dollars through various sham contributors, get the DNC to help place your mole in a position at the Commerce Department, and then push to see how far you can go with the scam.
The simple fact of the matter is that Roger Simon is wrong. Something like Hillary’s donations-for-access program HAS happened before. Hillary’s husband ran a similar program some twenty years ago. The only difference is that Bill et al. were selling access to the President and the White House, whereas Hillary was just selling access to the State Department.
Aha, you say! But Bill didn’t compromise national security the way Hillary did! Well, no. That’s not true. Bill did, in fact, compromise national security. The fact that he likely did so not just with Hillary’s approval, but at her encouragement, doesn’t exactly exculpate him. BOTH of the Clintons were complicit in the nearly decade-long scandal involving campaign contributions, foreign intrigue, and the undermining of American national security, likely in far more damaging ways than Hillary’s private email business.
We have neither the time nor the space to rehash all of the charges alleged and eventually proven in the 1990s “Chinagate” scandal. For our purposes today, it should suffice, we think, simply to remind you of the basics. Throughout the 1990s, Bill and Hillary were desperate both to increase funding for their personal political endeavors and to expand American economic interests in East Asia, which they rightly assumed would benefit them personally and politically. They set up Commerce Department trade missions to China, during which high-dollar business donors were able to meet Chinese government and business officials and to hock their wares, sometimes in contravention of American law.
At the same time, the Chinese government used a series of straw donors to funnel money to the Democratic National Committee, to Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign, and to various other Clinton-connected ventures. When all was said and done, the Chinese government had acquired detailed knowledge of the design and implementation of American nuclear warheads and of the American long-range missiles used to deliver those warheads (among other payloads). For much of the second half of the Clinton presidency, names like Charlie Trie, John Huang, Ted Seong, Maria Hsia, and Johnnie Chung filled the national security pages of the nation’s newspapers and news web sites. They were, however, mostly overshadowed by the name Monica Lewinsky, which, ironically enough, was rather fortuitous for the Clintons, who thus managed to avoid serious public scrutiny for what was inarguably their most serious scandal.
In The China Threat, a book published just before Clinton left office, Bill Gertz, the legendary national security reporter for the Washington Times (and now for the Washington Free Beacon) detailed the administration’s dangerous and compromising China policy. Again, the scandal is too deep and too wide to cover in any serious detail here. Nevertheless, Gertz noted, among other things, a memo written in 1997 by Justice Department investigator Charles LaBella that was particularly informative and particularly damning. Gertz put it this way:
In mid-2000 the extent of the Clinton-Gore administration corruption relating to foreign cash was exposed in a secret Justice Department memorandum by Charles LaBella, the chief lawyer in charge of the department’s Campaign Financing Task Force. The memorandum, written in 1998, was so devastating that Attorney General Janet Reno refused to release it for nearly two years. When it was made public in June 2000, the reason was clear. The memo stated that Clinton and Gore were desperate to raise campaign funds, regardless of the donor or source. “The intentional conduct and the ‘willful ignorance’ uncovered by our investigations, when combined with the line blurring, resulted in a situation where abuse was rampant, and indeed the norm,” LaBella said. “At some point, the campaign was so corrupted by bloated fund-raising and questionable ‘contributions’ that the system became a caricature of itself.”
LaBella disclosed that, had the evidence involved people other than the president, the vice president, and senior White House officials, a criminal probe would have been launched “without hesitation.” But the high-level officials’ involvement prompted “a heated debate within the Department as to whether to investigate at all,” he stated. “The allegations remain unaddressed.”
LaBella revealed that among the cash funneled into the presidential election campaign was a $100,000 donation in August 1996 made by Charlie Trie as a “conduit contribution.” Investigators viewed this as another example of Trie’s “acting as a conduit for PRC money into the Presidential election.”
LaBella also wanted to investigate Trie’s Taiwan letter and its connection to a contribution of several hundred thousand dollars made at almost the same time to the president’s and Hillary Clinton’s legal defense fund, the Presidential Legal Expense Trust. He asked: “[W]ere the contributions related to the subject matter contained in Trie’s Taiwan Straits letter sent to the White House by Middleton on the day the contributions were tendered by Trie? Were they intended to facilitate the letter finding its way to the President? Were they offered as an incentive to encourage a positive action on the letter? . . .These are questions that can only be answered following an investigation.”
But an investigation was never carried out, and the matter was covered up by the Clinton-Gore administration.
LaBella compared the Trie letter on the Taiwan Strait to the timing of campaign contributions made by Bernard Schwartz, the chairman of the satellite maker Loral, who won a waiver for a U.S. satellite export to China even though his company was then under criminal investigation for supplying missile technology to Beijing. “The timing of the Trie ‘donations,” LaBella wrote, “is at least as curious as the timing of contributions of Bernard Schwartz and the waivers sought by Loral in connection with its satellite project in China. The Loral matter is currently the subject of a full criminal investigation.”. . .
[H]is conclusion bears repeating: With so much smoke in the allegations of corruption, there can be little doubt that there is a fire somewhere. “It seems that everyone has been waiting for that single document, witness, or event that will establish, with clarity, action by a covered person (or someone within the discretionary provision) that is violative of a federal law,” he stated. “Everyone can understand the implications of a smoking gun. However, these cases have not presented a single event, document, or witness. Rather, there are bits of information (and evidence) which must be pieced together in order to put seemingly innocent actions in perspective. While this may take more work to accomplish, in our view it is no less compelling than the proverbial smoking gun in the end.”
We could go on, we suppose, and on, and on, and on. But we figure that by now you get the point – that being that when it comes to the Clintons and their willingness to do anything and everything to enhance their personal well-being, there is nothing new under the sun. Hillary sold access? Who didn’t know? She exploited her U. S. government office to garner donations? You don’t say. She took money from foreigners? Tell us something we didn’t know. In the process, she compromised national security? Been there; done that.
Roger Simon thinks that that Hillary’s Foundation-access scandal is a big deal. We agree. He thinks that it’s rotten, and ugly, and totally corrupt. We agree. He thinks that it is such a big deal that it will affect the future of the country and that it will, therefore, live in infamy. Well . . . that’s where we part ways with Simon. We think he is probably right that this particular scandal will affect the country going forward, but no more so than any of the previous country-changing Clinton scandals did. With Bill and Hill, this is all old hat by now. The United States may indeed be a banana republic, but that really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the Clinton Foundation. Bonnie and Clod turned it into a banana republic long before Bill left office. That’s who they are. That’s what they do.
If you were a fiction writer and you created characters exactly like Bill and Hillary, your editor or publisher would tell you to make your story more realistic, to make your characters less phony and one-dimensional. Back in the ‘90s, we used to compare Bill and Hill to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tom and Daisy: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” But even Tom and Daisy never jeopardized national security – REPEATEDLY. Even Tom and Daisy never threatened the moral fabric of a nation – REPEATEDLY. Tom and Daisy may have been careless, smashers of things and creatures, but the things and creatures they smashed were smaller, less historic and significant than the things Bill and Hill smash – REPEATEDLY.
And that brings us back to Kimberly Strassel and her conclusion that “If that alone doesn’t disqualify [Hillary] for the presidency, it’s hard to know what would.” As we said above, Strassel is right. Sadly, she’s right not because Hillary’s manifest and manifold character flaws have disqualified her from the presidency, but because it is truly hard – impossible, we’d say – to think of anything that would, in fact, disqualify her. Indeed, at this present moment, nearly half of the voters in the country and far more than half of the political and media elites believe that she is, by far, the most qualified candidate to be the 45th president of these here United States.
We actually feel kinda badly for Ms. Strassel, and Roger Simon, and all of the rest of the earnest right-thinking and right-leaning pundits who think that Hillary’s present scandal is a big deal. They’re wrong, you see. It isn’t. At least it isn’t to most of the voters and to nearly all of her supporters. To them, it’s just the way things are. And they’re right.
Part of the problem, as we have long noted in these pages, is the fact that traditional morality, traditional measures of character and righteousness no longer have any place in our society. The overwhelming majority of people in this country have finally caught up to the Clintons in terms of moral reasoning. They agree with Bill’s assessment, famously given to Tom Brokaw in the wake of one of the above scandals that “you can demonstrate character most effectively by what you fight for and for whom you fight.”
In our post-modern, post-Christian, post-morality civilization, your personal character is irrelevant, as long as you believe the “proper” things. Bill said it twenty years ago, and Hillary is living proof of it today. To a plurality of Americans, she may be a money-grubbing, lying, no good snake in the grass who will do anything and everything to enrich herself and to gain power, but she still believes in “women’s health,” in “reforming” health care, in fighting inequality, and most especially in punishing Republicans. A half-century later, the American people are happy to apply a standard attributed to LBJ: She may be a sumbitch, be she’s our sumbitch.
The other part of the problems, again as we have documented in these pages, is the fact that many of Hillary’s biggest and most powerful supporters actually prefer the fact that she is manifestly corrupt. To them, her corruption is a feature, not a bug. Or as we put it just under a year ago:
The really important story here is that Hillary’s dishonesty is in no way a political liability. Indeed, it is the very source of her political strength. To put it another way, those who support her candidacy with millions of dollars of donations do so not in spite of her bald-faced dishonesty, but because of it. To them, her corruption is her principal virtue . . .
Hillary Clinton has spent the better part of the last several months trying to portray herself as an average, progressive politician who wants nothing more than to help average people get ahead in life. Indeed, that’s the foundation of her campaign. The facts, of course, belie this trite and hackneyed notion. Hillary has received more campaign contributions from CEOs this election cycle than any other candidate, more than the top three Republicans combined. She is the favorite of donors who work for law firms, tech companies, and, naturally, big Wall Street banks. In the current cycle, Clinton’s top donors include Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase (SHOCK!), and the Blackstone Group. Over the course of her political career her top corporate donors include Citigroup (#1), Goldman Sachs (#2), JPMorgan (#4), Morgan Stanley (#5), Lehman Brothers (BOO!, #12), and Credit Suisse (#20). She is the candidate of the big banks, and she is so for a reason. . .
The long and short of it is that Hillary Clinton is a liar. And as far as the Big Banks are concerned, that’s a good thing. For the right price, she will look after their interests; she will make sure that regulation continues to favor the Bigs over the Littles, to the benefit of both government and Big Business.
Back in the day, we used to send out a cover sheet with our Clinton-scandal-themed “Whitewater Fax.” On this cover sheet, we had a graphic of a body of (white)water, that would rise or fall depending on how badly we thought the scandals were hurting Bill and Hill. Some days the water would rise; others it would fall. But we were absolutely convinced that eventually, the water would rise so high that Bill and Hillary would be washed away by the tide of their own corruption.
After a few years, we quit messing with the graphic and left the water-level static. We knew it didn’t matter. We knew that we cared, that you cared, and that a handful of other, backward-looking moral reactionaries cared. But we also knew that we were a small and dwindling minority. Scandal would never be the undoing of the Clintons. Never. They believed the proper things. They demonstrated their character in the proper way. They were untouchable.
And they still are.
We’d like to believe that Roger Simon is right and that eventually all of this corruption will catch up with Hillary and render her unfit for the presidency. But we don’t. We’ve been doing this long enough to know better.